Artwork for podcast Si Yo Fuera una Canción (If I Were a Song)
Abel Ruiz (English)
Episode 1030th July 2021 • Si Yo Fuera una Canción (If I Were a Song) • Elisabeth Le Guin
00:00:00 00:43:12

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Abel directs an urban community garden in Santa Ana, where members of the community can learn to care for Mother Earth. We talk about the human importance of gardens, and the perennial tensions between idealism and security.

CRECE COOPERATIVE – Community resilience through urban gardening (Student blog, en inglés)






  • links to local and specialized organizations in USA, Canada, and Mexico
  • enlaces a organizaciones locales y especializadas en EE UU, Canadá, y México

In English:

California Health Care Foundation 

Infographic site, very informative: 

They also did a 2016 survey called “Listening to Mothers in California” with issue briefs on the childbirth experiences of various demographic groups:

Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English. Witches, Midwives & Nurses : A History of Women Healers. The Feminist Press, 2010

en español:

Barbara Ehrenreich y Deirdre English, traducido por ??. Brujas, parteras y enfermeras. Bauma, 2019.

Existe una versión en pdf de solamente 41 pp. 


JUVENTINO ROSAS (todo en español)


Sólo existe una biografía monógrafo de Rosas, y algo irónicamente, está escrita en inglés y por un austriaco; no se la recomendamos. Es un tema que se beneficiaría de un estudio pensativo.

There is only one monograph biography of Rosas, which rather ironically is written in English by an Austrian; we don’t recommend it. This is an area that could use some thoughtful scholarship.



(todo en español)

Noticia de su muerte en El País, con biografía: Un sitio conmemorativo bien bonito

Wikipedia en español ofrece una discografía (¡más de 40 álbumes!) 



(todo en español)

Leyva, Juan. Política educativa y comunicación social: la radio en México, 1940-1946

. México : Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1992.

Romo, Cristina.


as, canales y mensajes: un perfil de la radio en México

. Guadalajara, Jalisco, México: ITESO, 1991.



Greetings and welcome to THE latest episode of “Si yo fuera una canción”-- “If I Were a Song.” We are a community-based podcast and radio show, in which people of Santa Ana, California, tell us in their own words about the music that means the most to them.

ELG: I am Elisabeth Le Guin, your program host, and Director of this project.

This project is based on my conviction that we people in the modern world need to learn to listen to one another; and that music, and all it brings us, is the perfect place to begin.

DAVID: My name is David Castañeda, music researcher here for the SYFUC podcast. I am so happy to be a part of this project, using my scholarly training and my performance experience to bring you the stories, music, and lived experiences of those living right here in Santa Ana.


ELG: Welcome Abel. I’d like to ask you to introduce yourself to our listeners with your full name, and, if you like, your age and a bit about your life, how you came to be in Santa Ana, your profession, things like that. So yeah, whenever you’re ready.

Abel: Yes, thanks a lot Elisabeth. It’s...well thank you so much inviting me to share this space with you and your listeners. This is a very interesting project. My name is Abel Ruiz García, I’m originally from a community in Zacatecas called Tlachichila. Tlachichila, Zacatecas, Mexico. I’m 37 years old...I think...I’ve started losing track! But yes, I’m 37, and I’ve been in Santa, well, since I was 12! Well, so the history of my family here in Santa Ana has been a lot of back and forth. In fact, I was born here, in a house over on Hazard, that’s what the street is called. My mother had me at home, I think because...Well now it’s become popular for lots of reasons, right? To give birth at home.

ELG: Yes.

Abel: But at that time, I think there was a program where it was more affordable to have a baby at home, and so my parents chose that option. And since then, well like I said, we’ve been coming and going.

I was born here, and when I was 11 months old we left for Mexico. We came back here when I was 6 or 7 for another 2 years, and I did first and second grade at Madison.

ELG: Mm-hm.

Abel: And then we went back to Mexico again. I did 4th, 5th, and 6th grade there. And then we came back again, this time for good to Santa Ana, and when I was 12 I started 7th grade at Lathrop. And, well, I’ve been more or less established here ever since. So it’s a little...

ELG: Yeah, how interesting. You’ve truly had an international childhood, right? Really, quite a mix of the two coutnries.

Abel: Yes. Well, most of my memories are from when I was in Mexico, you know? From those times. It was like a...a sort of strange lapse when I was here in first and second grade, for some reason I don’t remember much from that time. But when I was in Mexico, well, I remember a lot, even from back when I was in kindergarten.

ELG: And you always, always came back to Santa Ana. Always here.

Abel: Mm-hm. Yeah.

ELG: It’s really interesting, what you’re saying about a home birth. Because –well, as you know, these things aren’t really promoted here in the United States. There’s a lot of resistance from the medical profession, right? The medical establishment. Ah, in fact, I had my daughter, who-- in fact, is about your age, she’s 36-- at home, in the Bay Area in Northern California. And I had to search for a doctor that would assist in a home birth, and it was really quite a challenge. Because the medical association here doesn’t want it.

Abel: Yes, actually my partner and I are having a baby, a beautiful baby girl, and we are anticipating the same thing, right? That you go to the hospital and you have no control of the situation. There’s no humanity in the way the person giving birth is treated. That’s why we’re going to have the birth at home. I think there’s been a lot more learning lately about this, because now there’s like, a network of people doing partería or “midwifery” as they call it here--

ELG: Yeah.

Abel: --and they are interested in reviving these practices, right? So I think it’s pretty cool, to be able to go back and recover that. It’s really important to humanize giving birth.

ELG:’s that, treating childbirth like a disease, it’s insane! Right? haha. The most fundamental moment in life, to treat it ike a disease, truly makes no sense. So, how cool, how awesome and of course, congratulations!

Abel: Mm, thank you.

INSERT #1 – ELG only

The medicalization of birth is a theme we need to think about here in the United States. The richest country in the world is #60 in the world when it comes to the health and suvival of mothers and babies. This unencouraging situation is a direct result of racism and sexism. A hundred years ago, the midwife was a broadly accepted figure across all USAmerican social classes. The great majority of midwives were women of color, many of them African-American. The medical establishment – made up largely of white men, of course – took control of birth away from midwives, and our for-profit medical system did the rest, turning birth into a very profitable industry.

This is not to say that medical advances aren’t useful and important when it comes to birth. For premature babies, for mothers with complications, medical science has been a blessing, of course. But for the 85% of births that are normal, the intervention of doctors and hospital surroundings simply are not necessary.

ELG: Ok, let’s talk about your profession. What work are you doing here in Santa Ana?

Abel: So, right now I’m working partly as a farmer. I’m part of an urban gardening cooperative called “Crece”, [or “Grow”]. It’s an up-and-coming cooperative that’s also an organization that promotes and advocates for members of our community that are involved with, or want to get involved with the field of food production, right? So, in my case, well, I’ve been taking part in urban agriculture for 5 or 6 years now. And I’ve had the chance to associate with, well, really create an association with a couple of other people. Jaime, for example, grows vegetables, but he’s also focussed on mushroom cultivation.

ELG: Ah!

Abel: Yeah, and so, we do it all together, because if we were working separately none of us would be able to sustain our projects, so we are coming together to support each other in creating a produce program, right? With organic boxes, or baskets, like they say in Mexico, where people are already subscribing. We provide a variety of organic produce every week, or every other week, or once a month, whatever the person wants. But yes, it’s a new project....but that’s basically the idea, to take control of our food system as a community, you know?

ELG: Yeah.

Abel: Let’s not even go into all the] problems with the current food system, it’s so damaging to the earth and to people working within the industry. So, we’re trying to change all that.

ELG: Yes, and again we’re talking about, like, the base. I mean, the most fundamental elements of life, right? Birth is one, another is our food. Exactly.

Abel: Mm-hm, yes, exactly.

ELG: How cool. And us urban folks a lot of the time we forget what good food is. Because there’s so much fast food everywhere, right? But growing and caring for a vegetable garden, growing plants, it makes you conscious of what food really is, and how it connects us to the land, right?

Abel: Yes, totally. The ability to grow your own food or to have more spaces like our farm, it’s a great resource, not only for the food, right? I also think of it in the most basic terms. Just being in a garden, it teaches you how to walk, no? Because you have to watch where you step. There have been people, volunteers, who enter the garden and we tell them “go grab a shovel”, or whatever, and they walk right over the planting beds! stepping on everything. And we’re saying “No, you can’t walk there. You have to watch where you’re walking, OK?” And even the way you walk [matters], right? I mean, you’re walking on your own food, you know?

ELG: [laughs] Yeah. I’d never thought about that. But, yeah, it’s true. Literally. The way we connect to the land with our feet. Huh.

Abel: Yes, exactly. And so there are many teachings. The simple act of being among the crops no? And it’s...and well, I’d like to also share, well since I’m going to be a father, I have the mentality that, like, this is for the next generations. I mean, what [spaces] will they have to talk to each other in? What will they talk about? How will they see themselves? What will they want to build? And so I think we need more spaces like this one, so they have that foundation, right? To have that option of planting, as part of the conversation within their existence in an urban environment, you know? But it’s important that we work hard to be able to provide that resource.

ELG: Yes, yes, super important. It’s really beautiful work, really lovely, and I greatly respect it. As you know I have—

Abel: Yeah, hehe.

ELG: --a little garden behind my house. And I could find something to be done there every hour of every day, and it’s a really small garden! But it demands quite a lit of attention and commitment. It demands a lot; but it also gives a lot. A whole lot. It’s a way to connect ourselves to this planet.

Abel: Yeah, I totally agree.

ELG: OK, well then, let’s get to the first song, the song you gave me that in some way represents where you come from. That represents your origins. All right… here it is: “Sobre las Olas”, or, “Over the Waves.”


Juventino Rosas, “Sobre las olas,” Pedro Infante version

ELG: Awww...[both laugh] There’s a piece of old Mexico. All right, tell us a little bit about how this song entered your life, and why you chose it as the musical image of your origins.

Abel: Ah, well, it was pretty tough, no? Because thinking of my origins, well, in general I think of my my aunts, uncles, my mother, my parents’ music in general, which is rancheras, right? Which are... not so much regional, because the genre can be quite diverse regionally. But rancheras are something my uncles always listened to and still listen to in Mexico. In particular, Pedro Infante, beause my mom, and also my Uncle Salvador, who is one of the oldest of his generation, love Pedro Infante. My Uncle Salvador is always says things like “this singer is the boss”, right? –There are people that do voice impersonations, like comedians.

ELG: Ah, yeah.

Abel: And, in general they can do many people. There’s people that imitate Vicente Fernández, or even a couple that attempt José Alfredo Jiménez. But they say, “No one has ever been able to imitate Pedro Infante.” It’s just that voice he had.

ELG: Ahh, yeah, for sure.

Abel: And that’s why Pedro Infante in particular, since I grew up with his music, and my mom, when she’d do chores, or wash the laundry outside—because we all still did laundry by hand—well, not really “us,” it was all my mom-- well, that was the music she’d always be playing, right? She’s put it on at top volume and...[both laugh] and well....I think Pedro Infante was one of the most...was who we listened to the most. And I just wanted to mention that of all his music, because Pedro Infante sang in many styles, my favourite are his waltzes.

ELG: I see.

Abel: The waltzes. Because I like that style best. Especially this song. I‘m not sure if you recognize it, but it’s by Juventino Rosas, a Mexican composer.

ELG: Yeah!

Abel: It was really well-known, but once the waltz became very famous, and it was even being attributed to the Germans, who are know for their waltzes. But originally the music—

ELG: Yes, yes. It’s Mexican music. In fact, I’ll confess something to you. When doing my prep for this interview, I listened to the song several times and thought “Oh, yeah, I recognize this melody.” Everyone recognizes it, right? And I thought, “This composer Juventino Rosas, he stole it from German composers!” Because up until now I thought this super famous melody was by some famous waltz composer, like Johann Strauss.

Abel: [laughs] Yeah.

ELG: I was wrong! I did my research and, no! It’s a really famous melody, but it’s roots are Mexican. So I am duly corrected. [both laugh] And yeah, I didn’t know until now that Juventino Rosas composed this melody.


NOTE: this is not a translation but discusses the same themes in each language.

ELG: So, Juventino Rosas, poor guy, he only lived to be twenty-six years old...

DC: Twenty- six. Wow.

time he died. He was born in:

DC: Oh, wow.

ELG: And the poor guy! He was touring around as a violinist -- I think he was mostly a violinist -- constantly, because he was poor. He had a lot of trouble making ends meet, even though some of his published music got so very famous.

DC: And it did. It was very, very famous, this song.

ELG: Yeah, you know, this famous melody, [sings the opening] -- I don't sing it as nicely as Pedro Infante [both laugh]. But, it is popular in so many different genres now.

DC: Mm-hm.

ELG: It has gotten such broad distribution, not just as a waltz, but New Orleans jazz, bluegrass, country Western, Old-Time fiddling, Tejano music, you name it.

DC: Mm hmm. It's gone everywhere, and like you said, Pedro just made the song classic, you know, with his voice and everything. And as Abel talks about in his in the interview, this song means so much to Abel, because Pedro means so much to so many people, not only as a musician and a Mexican, you know, he's become very much this symbol of Mexican culture. And I think this song encapsulates a lot of that.

ELG: Yeah, yeah, both the song itself and then this performance, the one, the performance that Abel chose, are just iconic.

DC: They are, yeah. And it's... I mean, not to make this particular discussion a debate on it, but I do always like to bring up the fact that while people like Pedro Infante became these symbols of national culture, Mexican national identity, and very much so mariachi music, well, he's very much associated with that music. These musics, specifically mariachi, has its roots in indigenous communities in Mexico and the colonial era, and all of those struggles, which sometimes aren't talked about all that much when Pedro Infante comes up. Abel sees him as very much this icon and this point of pride, which he is. And that's great. That should be the most important thing always. But I do like to always remind people, you know, a lot of these musics that we love so much, they have their roots in indigenous communities that sometimes aren't talked about all that much. And it's important to remember.

ELG: That's right, we touched on that briefly in the interview I did with Graciela Holguín --

DC: Mm hmm.

ELG: -- who also brought a lot of wonderful mariachi music to the table. And yeah, I remember mentioning that in that interview. And, just to close out this issue, of course, the waltz, or vals, as it's called in Spanish. Well, that was indigenous music, too. It just happened to be German indigenous peasants who invented that dance!

DC: Mm hmm.

ELG: So it's kind of interesting, this play of -- really international play of styles and origins for the music that becomes iconic to a nation.

ELG – But, returning to your reasons for choosing this song. It sounds like it’s just the voice alone of Pedro Infante that symbolizes or represents your childhood. Is that true? That voice-- much like you said, it’s without equal, it’s unique – and the very sound of his singing reminds you of when you were a child. Am I understanding that correctly?

Abel: Yes...In particular, that anecdote about when I was growing up, well I think it’s one of the things I appreciate about my uncles and my mom. They fostered a sense of pride in us, you know? Pride in being Mexican. And not only being Mexican, but also part of the community we come from. So, I think that when we talk about music, it’s like a support [to that pride]. My Uncle Salvador was a musician, he played in the wind band. He would say, “Listen to that voice, how it changes tones.” Well, the truth is I don’t know too much about music, but they wanted me to hear him, to foster that pride in me. “Listen to what a beautiful voice he has.” I think in my subconscious, I had this pride, where I’d say “Wow! we have amazing composers, and not only composers but singers too, no?”

ELG: Yeah.

Abel: It’s one of those memories that I have that takes me back to that childhood in Mexico, learning those lessons, you know?

ELG: What a lovely memory. And, perhaps you can dance the waltz? [chuckles]

Abel: Ahhh.... More or less. At school we had to do dance performances. If your listeners have heard about schools in Mexico, well every year you have to do a dance performance for Mother’s Day or graduation. And, well, many of the dances we’d have to do were waltzes.

osas’ Waltz was composed in:

At that time the waltz was in fashion, in a way we can’t imagine today. Everyone, or at least everyone “respectable,” knew how to dance the waltz. And that knowledge has gotten somewhat lost nowadays.

Abel: Mm. Yes...

ELG: At least it is preserved, at least somewhat, in the schools of Mexico. That’s neat.

Abel: Yeah, and to some degree it’s for the quinceañeras, right? Because the waltz, ahh, the principal dance of the quinceañera, I believe, when the do the whole ritual of the girl becoming a woman, the dance with the chambelán or escort, is a waltz.

ELG: Yeah, yeah, it hadn’t ocurred to me, but you’re right. And it seems to me that everything about the quinceañeras is a bit “in the old style”, no? I mean the dresses they wear, are, well, from the nineteenth century, right? Just like the waltz.

Abel: Yeah, it’s very influenced by, well, European culture, right? Like “Beauty and the Beast”, it makes me think of Beauty and Beast.” [both laugh]

ELG: [laughing] Yeah.

Abel: But, look, if I can share with you something I find interesting, because, in the conversations I’ve had with my mom, or when my uncles get together and talk amongst themselves, I’ve heard them talk about how Pedro Infante, ranchera music, all that, music that for some is the music of that generation, -- well, in fact it wasn’t very popular with my grandparents. In fact, my grandparents didn’t like rancheras.

When I asked my mom what kind of music my grandfather listened to, she said he really liked Argentinean music, he listened to the radio, and in those times there weren’t many radio stations, -- and probably even fewer, when he was young, -- but my mom said he enjoyed music from Argentina.

And that he felt that rancheras were a bit embarassing, no? At that time, well my grandfather grew up during the time of the Revolution, in the early nineteen hundreds.


INSERT #3 – ELG only

exico, a federal inicitive of:

ELG: Mm-hm. Mmmm. Yes, musical tastes have changed quite a bit I think.

And especially outside of the Capital, right? A lot of ups and downs in enthusiasm for that regional music. it has to do with how pride is tied in with nationalism. Or as you just said, that community pride, which is another thing entirely. And...really interesting, really interesting. Yeah and...Many times in these interviews, I find myself hearing memories of my interviewees’ grandparents. And many of them lived through the Revolution. And the influence that time had on people’s lives even today is striking.

Abel: Mm-hm.

ELG: It’s had a great influence on life in the present day. And on music of course. So...well, how cool! I think it’s time to move on to the second song, which talks a bit about, well, your hopes, or as you put it, your aspirations for the future. And that song is “Castillos en el aire", or “Castles in the Air,” by Alberto Cortez. And I have to thank you for introducing me to this song, because it’’s really something!


Alberto Cortez, “Castillos en el aire” (1st part of the song)

ELG: Ahh, what a great song. OK—

Abel: Joyful!

ELG: Joyful! it’s authentic joy, right? But it’s funny, I think, because it actually talks about serious issues, but in a way that is light...All right. How does this represent your hopes, Abel?

Abel: No, like you mention, I mean, the second question, [about] what represents my hopes? Ahh, well… I grew up with urban rock, [you know?].

ELG: Uh huh.

Abel: Not very hopeful stuff, right? It’s really, well it’s often very serious in tone, and much of the time, just speaking to the realities of [urban] life. But this song [by Cortez], it’s also talking about realities that we live, you know? As people, like, I think it really connects me to the essence of being a child, no? We all grow up with the...I mean, the [idea that the] impossible doesn’t exist.

ELG: Yeah, it’s that second part, that “doo, doo, doo, doo...” [singing softly]

Abel: Yeah.



NOTE: this is not a translation but has the same themes in each language.

DC: OK, so we have "Castles in the sky," right, Elisabeth?

ELG: Yep, we sure do.

DC: [So this song... I think it's great that Abel chose this song because in it, I think I'm able to see many, many layers of who he is. But before we get into that, maybe we should talk a little bit about what's going on musically and who the singer is. So the singer is Alberto Cortez, a very famous Argentinian singer who actually had his first major job singing for the "Orquesta San Francisco Jazz." So I spent about an hour trying to make sure that this wasn't San Francisco, like my San Francisco -- I'm from, I was born in Oakland. San Francisco Bay Area is my home. And I'm like, "There's no way that he could be from there and I not know it!"

ELG: [laughs] Yeah.

DC: Correct, he's not. There's the "San Francisco Jazz de Buenos Aires." So there it is, that's what it was... That's what that was. He studied social sciences, but then transferred or I should say, moved over to music full time and then went on to become one of the most famous, sought-after singer-songwriters in Latin America. And I think we can see that quality and that caliber in this song. There's a lot of familiarity with different types of music. I heard a lot of familiarity with jazz, but I think most of all, I love how this song is so dynamic. And most people might think that music from South America or music from Latin America in general is only one way, it's either something like mariachi or something like salsa, perhaps. But in this song, we can see that South American music and Latin American music is so dynamic. There's so much going on, it's so creative. It's so... what I will call polycultural. And I just really, really love that about this song.

ELG: Yeah, it... Well, you know, dynamic it certainly is. I mean, it's kind of two songs jammed together and it's interesting, you know, that you hear jazz in the influence, because I, with my classical training, I hear classical music in that opening, which is like kind of hyper dramatic, it's a little bit operatic. And I think he's making fun of the operatic trope --

DC: [Mm hmm.

ELG: -- with this, you know, very dark beginning. And then, you know, at a certain point, there comes this [sings a bit of the second part] And it's, you know, it's just every bit the opposite. And they're in the same song, which is, of course, the whole point of the message of the song: the conflict between adulthood and in childhood that we all carry, no matter what age we are, we all carry within us. I came across a phrase when I was researching Cortez that I like a lot, that he was called "the singer-songwriter of simple things."

DC: Beautiful. I love it.

ELG: Yeah, isn't that nice?

DC: Mm hmm.

ELG: And it really… I mean, this song is as simple as it could be, and it's so effective!

DC: Mm hmm.


“Castillos en el aire,” the second part

ELG: -- I mean, it almost sounds like a children’s song, right? It’s quite notable. I was here, like, nodding my head, dancing a lttle, because that’s the sound. But yeah, the song, the lyrics talk about a real conflict between...he calls it “sanity,” and love. there such a conflict in your life? Do you ever find yourself wanting to fly and not being able to? How do you relate to the song?

Abel: The song, like you say, talks about this conflict...I sort of see it as this adaptation that they call “adulting.” There are so many ideas, right? About what it is to be an adult. And often it means not idealizing the future anymore, right? And, I mean, I include myself among the...among those who are doing projects that support, let’s say, a different kind of future, right? In terms of community.

ELG: Yeah.

Abel: And for a lot of people, that’s not realistic, right? It’s something someone does when they’re young, in their “rebellious phase”, we could say. Some of depict it like that. And then the moment arrives when you’re supposed to get serious, figure out your life, get a secure job without many risks.

And I think the way I relate to this song is that we’re creating, like, a cooperative, or an alternative approach to food.

And in one way, that makes me a dreamer. But on the other hand, I’m taking concrete steps, right?

And, well, on a personal level I think in some ways I connect to that energy, you know?

Relating to people who have that essence, that want that essential connection with themselves. And aren’t so caught up in what the media shows us, right? What institutions are telling us about how we should think.

ELG: I’ll tell you something, a few hours ago I was doing a bit of research on Emma Goldman. She was a Russian who emigrated to the United States in the early 20th century, and became an anarchist. She was quite famous. And there’s a quote that’s attributed to her. You hear it all over the place. It turns out she never said it, but it doesn’t really matter; the quote is quite lovely. In Spanish it would be "Si no puedo bailar, no quiero [ser] parte de tu revolución." or, in English: “ If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”

Abel: Wow! Hahaha.

ELG: And I think that it expresses very neatly something that this song expresses too. The importance of flying, the importance of spreading your wings—metaphorically speaking of course—it’s real, it’s profound. We have to dance, to be a bit frivolous sometimes, right? But the paradox is that it’s actually quite important. It’s really serious, the need to be joyful and frivolous from time to time.

Abel: Yeah, I completely agree with you.

I think for me, my “dance” we could say, is the day to to ability to grow crops, you know? On the farm, no? And being able to do this practice, farming for me—well I don’t see it as a job, as work; It’s more like a way to clear my mind. A way to center myself again. I imagine, I’d like to think that every person has a way of connecting to that center of themselves. And many times, like the song says, well “what an idiot.” You can’t do that because you have all these responsibilities. Or whatever it may be.

ELG: Yeah, that we all have enough faith in ourselves, to be idiots every now and then, right? [laughs] Well yeah, and I really love the image of the garden as a dance floor, so to speak.

Abel: Exactly.

ELG: Sometimes, when I’m weeding in my own garden, I picture the whole garden as a party. And the so-called weeds are the uninvited guests. It’s another way of imagining it, I suppose...

But yes, I believe that continuing to move forward, to have faith in life, it’s like a dance—to return to the metaphor—it’s like a dance between the adult, as you say, and the frivolous, or well, joy that can’t be explained. The pure joy of being alive, right? --But now I think we are approaching the end of the interview. Is there anything else you’d like to day about the Cortez song, or about the themes that we’ve discussed in the songs?

Abel: No, I’m think I’m satisifed there. Just very grateful to have been able to have this conversation with you.

ELG: Me too.

Abel: it’s been the highlight of my day!

ELG: That’s great. Yes, exactly. I’m very thankful, because every story that comes out in these interviews is a treasure.

Abel: Well, I agree. And it’s that...I don’t know how much time we have, or if it’s part of the program, but I’d be interested to hear from you, well, a song for your origins, and a song for your hopes.

ELG: Hahaha, Yes, of course, of course! Of course, I’ve thought about it a lot.

Abel: Mm-hm.

ELG: And... [sighs] I’d say that a song that really represents where I’m from would be...It’s classical music, a piano concerto by Robert Schumann, who was a nineteenth century German composer. It’s beautiful, very romantic and passionate.

MUSIC CLIP #3, Schumann piano concerto

ELG. And when I was 14 or 15 years old, I fell in love with this concerto. So for me, the music that represents my origins, the music that I loved and studied as an adolescent, the music I dedicated my—well, it was my career for twenty years – is not my music anymore. And that is a painful thing for me. So there’s a bit of conflict in that story, right?

Abel: I find it interesting that you were interested in that musical genre from a young age.

ELG: Oh yes, passionately. I fell in love with that music, and I still love it. But I can’t listen to it now, because it brings up several layers of painful and conflict-ridden memories, and because of that I’ve taken a bit of distance [from it.] And, OK, briefly, for the future…Well, I’ll tell you that for me, the music that energizes me most, and fills me with hope—this sounds strange, but it’s the truth... It’s my own music! From time to time, not very often, but from time to time, I write songs. Sometimes they are sones in the jaranera tradition, no? and sometimes they’re more like folk music. But I do it purely in the spirit of play. It’s that, after so many years as a professional musician, during which music was like any other commodity to sell, now I get to direct [myself toward] my own musics. I don’t think they are particularly good, [both laugh] but they give me pleasure and relief, a very strong feeling of joy. So for me, those particular songs are my hope. Yeah.

Abel: Ah, how cool, that’s awesome.

ELG: And thank for asking. What a good question!

Abel: [laughs] Of course, thank you for sharing. And...if some day you’re willing to share, I’d like to hear one of your songs.

ELG: Well, I’m thinking about it, I’m thinking about it. I’d like to record my songs...OK, well then, Abel, I think it’s time to say goodbye, and well, I leave you with many thanks for sharing your perspective about life and music. It’s a privilege to hear it.

Abel: Ah no, thank you. Thank you Elisabeth. Thanks for the invitation, and well, yeah, my heart is very happy to have had this opportunity,

ELG: Ah, thank you. Well, me too, me too. Many thanks and you and your family take care. When is the due date, more or less?

Abel: Ah, at the end of July. July 28th supposedly, that’s what the doctors think.

ELG: Well I’m very, like the whole community, I’m very excited for you guys, and I wish you all the good things and joy during these moments. It’s a very special time.

Abel: Yes, thank you so much. I’m personally super excited, and well, I can’t wait to meet little Tlalli!

ELG: Oh, my goodness... Well, OK, have a great evening, a good weekend, and we’ll be in touch.

Abel: For sure, Elisabeth, yes, thanks so much. Have a good day.

ELG: Yeah, yeah, great, thanks Abel. See you soon.

Abel: See you soon.

ELG: Chao.


We didn’t play an example of the music that represents my hopes for the future, because you’re going to hear one very soon: the song with which we close every episode, [sing it] “Si yo fuera una canción…” –well, it’s by me!

Meanwhile: we have put links to CRECE, the community garden cooperative with which Abel works, on our website, We hope you’ll explore them and get inspired!

Would you like to know more?

On our website at, you can find complete transcripts in both languages of every interview, our Blog about the issues of history, culture, and politics that come up around every song, links for listeners who might want to pursue a theme further, and some very cool imagery. You’ll find playlists of all the songs from all the interviews to date, and our special Staff-curated playlist as well.

We invite your comments or questions! Contact us at our website or participate in the Si Yo Fuera conversation on social media. We’re out there on FaceBook and Instagram. And then there’s just plain old word of mouth. If you like our show, do please tell your friends to give it a listen. And do please subscribe, on any of the major podcast platforms. We’ll bring a new interview for you, every two weeks on Friday mornings.

Julia Alanis, Cynthia Marcel De La Torre, and Wesley McClintock are our sound engineers; Zoë Broussard and Laura Díaz hold down the marketing; David Castañeda is Music Researcher; Jen Orenstein translates interviews to and from Spanish; Deyaneira García and Alex Dolven make production possible. We are a not-for-profit venture, currently and gratefully funded by the John Paul Simon Guggenheim Foundation, UCLA’s Faculty Grants Program, and the Herb Alpert School of Music.

For now, and until the next interview—keep listening to one another!

I’m Elisabeth Le Guin, and this is, “Si yo fuera una canción -- If I were a song…”